Shallow frying
  |  First Published: February 2006

In last month’s Cooking Corner we dealt with deep frying seafood. This month, we are going to deal with shallow frying. Shallow frying is most suited to fish fillets and steaks as well as other types of seafood such as calamari, prawn cutlets and fish cakes.

To pan fry, you will need a heavy-based frypan. A nice, thick base distributes the heat more evenly across the bottom of the pan and minimizes the risk of hot spots on the base, which would cause the seafood to cook unevenly.

When shallow frying, heat the oil or butter (a combination of both is ideal) in the pan. Place the seafood, presentation side down, in the pan and cook over a medium heat. As always, the cooking time is dependant on the thickness of the seafood. Turn the seafood only once (basically this is the difference between deep frying and shallow frying – when deep frying the seafood pieces and / or fillets normally don’t need to be turned over). If you are cooking very thin fillets of fish, they may need to be cooked on one side only.

As always with frying seafood, the quality of the oil that you use is very important. Use fresh oil and discard after use. If you are cooking a lot of seafood, after cooking one batch, ensure that the oil and pan come back up to temperature before you add any more seafood to the pan. If you place the seafood into just warm oil, the oil will not crisp the outside of the seafood and will result in a soft, pale coating.

Coating the seafood with a variety of flavours and spices will add a whole new dimension to your seafood cooking. Here are some suggestions:

1. Add a tiny touch of garlic to your dried breadcrumbs.

2. To give your meal a fresh touch, try adding lemon zest and finely chopped fresh parsley.

3. To take this flavour into Thailand, add lime zest and just a touch of chopped fresh coriander – not too much or the coriander will overwhelm the flavour of the seafood. If you are shallow frying oily fish (e.g. mackerel, salmon or tailor), you could also add a little chilli to the coating.

4. Try crushing some flavoured savoury biscuits to add a different flavour boost to your seafood. Supermarkets stock a wide variety of savoury biscuits such as spring onion, poppy seed and black pepper.

5. Add some crushed potato chips to the breadcrumbs for an extra special flavour and texture.

6. Add a small amount of fresh herbs to the breadcrumb base such as dill, chives or mint.

7. Use fresh breadcrumbs instead of dried for an extra crunchy texture. You will need to take care when turning the seafood.

8. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, just coat your seafood in a little flour, then dip it into beaten egg before shallow frying.

As always when frying seafood, the trick is to have a crunchy coating. Ensure that your oil is at the correct temperature. Don’t overcrowd the pan and drain well on paper towels after cooking.

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